Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Finding Your Idea's Fitting Format

Ideas come to me in my dreams, fuzzy but fully formed. I open my eyes in the morning, reach for my phone, and type up the details and images before they slip away.

When I start to flesh out my note fragments and the idea begins to expand and take shape, the first question I try to answer is this --

What is it?

That is, what is the best format for telling this story? Because every idea has multiple possibilities for execution - a play, a film, a webseries, etc. But there's usually one format that will really make the idea sing.

Asking this question is useful, because you don't waste time trying to shove a square peg into a round hole.

Years ago, I wrote a synopsis for a graphic novel that I later turned into my very first TV pilot script. It was too serialized to be a useful sample during that era of procedural television, so I put it in a drawer.

But trends in television change fast and now everyone is buying serialized pilot ideas. So I dug up that old pilot to see if I could rework it into a fresh, serialized concept.

Again, I went back to that question - what is it? How does this story want to be told? Could I make it into a compelling series, or would it be better as a graphic novel as I'd originally envisioned?

After two weeks of beating out character wants and plot twists, I had my answer --

It's a screenplay! That's really the best format for keeping the stakes high as the story unfolds. And unfortunately, I need to focus on TV scripts right now, so that idea has gone back in the drawer.

So if you find yourself struggling to make a screenplay or stage play or piece of fiction work, ask yourself if the story could also be told in a different format. Because a change of format may be just what your idea needs to come to life.

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